Far Cry 2 - A Far Cry From The Original? Page: 1
IntroductionFarcry & XFX
 
In association with XFX, today we will be taking a look at Far Cry 2, early contender for game of the year which XFX are now bundling with select products from their 9 series of graphics cards.
 
Far Cry: game of the year 2004. Topping that is going to take some effort, especially as the developing rights are no longer with Crytek. Ubisoft Montreal now hold the reins to the Far Cry franchise and this is the first in what is most likely a long running series. Notice I said series and not sequel? Far Cry 2 breaks all of its links to its predecessors. Gone are the Hawaiian shirts, genetically altered soldiers and the picturesque paradise of yesteryear; Far Cry 2 is a different fish altogether.
 
Different but not totally removed from the original.
 
Set in a volatile region of Africa, you are a hired gun. A mercenary with no allegiance to the two opposing factions, the APR and UFLL, who are playing for your skills as a soldier of fortune. Stretching across 50km of  African Savannah, the game is played out on a barren, dusty wilderness rather than the lush green paradise of its forebear.
 
Similar to Far Cry but expanding on the idea, Far Cry 2 allows much more freedom of movement. Previously, although Far Cry allowed a certain amount of freedom, there were still boundaries that prevented you from fully exploring the Islands, be it by mountainous ravines or patrolling helicopter gunships that had a canny ability to head shot you if you strayed too far off the beaten path. Far Cry 2, however, allows much more freedom of movement. You choose your path; you can explore wherever and whenever you wish. You choose your missions as well, although the main missions are more linear and in keeping with the storyline.
 
A key feature of the game are your 'buddies'. Yes, that's right, you get to team up with various characters throughout the game by completing certain missions. These buddies are a valuable source of tactical information for future missions and can also pull you out of trouble when you are seriously injured.  The buddies available depend on your initial choice of character, with the rest of the choices then cast as additional buddies who can be unlocked throughout the game, but the player will decide which buddies continue to be more important to the game's storyline.
 
Starting off infected with malaria, your first task is to find some medicine. The only way to get medicine in Africa is by the help of others. Nothing is bought with cold hard cash. You either trade by completing missions or using the main currency in this war torn province - rough diamonds. You get paid in diamonds for completing missions, which can then be used to trade for new weapons and upgrades available from the arms vendor at the weapons shop.
 
With over 30 weapons available to be distributed over 3 weapon slots, the player must choose wisely, as the right weapon could make the difference between mission success or failure. All of the weapons will degrade over a period of time and begin to jam and seize, so keeping your firepower fresh and  greased up is imperative. Enemy weapons can be used, but more often than not are visibly corroded and therefore more likely to jam and misfire - not good in the middle of a firefight!
 
A variety of vehicles are available for use, with most vehicles being discarded by the roadside. Again, as with the weapons, the vehicles degrade over time, but they can be repaired with a few quick twists of a socket wrench once they have taken a certain amount of damage. Any vehicles that overturn can also be flipped back over with a simple interaction.
 
With the basics now covered, let's take a look at the technical attributes of Far Cry 2 before going on to testing out the game play.


Far Cry 2 - A Far Cry From The Original? Page: 2
Technical Features
 
Powered by the DUNIA engine developed by Ubisoft, Far Cry 2 takes advantage of the DirectX 10 graphics API. One of the more surreal features of Far Cry 2 is that time is continuous, similar to Oblivion and Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The player can choose to fight day or night, with each time giving its advantages and disadvantages to the mission chosen. The 24 hour day/night cycle is emulated by the use of some stunning dynamic lighting and soft shadows, which result in some picturesque sunsets/sunrises as seen below.
 
 
 
The weather is another great feature in Far Cry 2, and while weather effects are nothing new to gaming, the procedural sky and varying weather patterns along with random dust storms and downpours add together to make a more realistic battlefield.
 
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Perhaps one of the coolest (or hottest!) features of Far Cry 2 is the Dynamic Fire. As you will soon discover, lighting and propagating fire in the dry bush is a very usefully tactic to deter your enemies, which can give you those crucial few seconds to either evade them, heal yourself, or unjam your weapon in preparation to return fire. Wholly dependent on the weather and location at the time, fire will spread in varying fashions reliant on how wet, dry and windy the conditions at the time are. Start a fire in dry scrub land and the fire will spread rapidly to trees and buildings; try doing the same in boggy, wet swampland and as you would expect, getting a good inferno going is difficult.
 
Flamethrowers are an all time favourite of FPS fans, and Far Cry 2 satisfies that craving for destruction with this old school weapon. Not only can flamethrowers be used to ignite the battlefield, but Molotov cocktails can also be used to devastating effect. The usual explosive barrels of kerosene abound the areas explode with ferocity when shot, which makes use of another of Far Cry's features, the PhysX engine. This serves to enhance the reality of the game.
 
 
 
Although the screenshots above depict some stunning graphics, for the most part the arena is a very subdued and oppressive affair. Whether that is down to the actual theme of the African wasteland or the graphics themselves I cannot say, but for whatever reason the images did not look as fresh or as crisp as the gorgeous Crysis. The graphics engine, however, is a lot more refined than the Crysis and most GPU's should be able to muster a playable frame rate without too much hassle.

Far Cry 2 reads from a multisampled depth buffer to speed up anti-aliasing performance. This feature is fully implemented on GeForce GPUs via NVAPI while ATI Radeon GPUs implement an equivalent path via DirectX 10.1. Both manufacturers have been quick to release beta drivers and hotfixes in anticipation of the game and then release further drivers and hotfixes to patch the previous drivers. Such is the complexity and desire to perform well in the game.
 
 


Far Cry 2 - A Far Cry From The Original? Page: 3
Gameplay
 
Your overall objective is to find and kill 'The Jackal', an arms dealer who supplies both warring factions with weapons and ammunition. To get close to the Jackal, you need to complete a varied number of sub missions, each with its own side missions. This makes for longevity and variety of the game.
 
Farcry 2
 
You get your missions from each leader of the factions located at various points around the game world, and it is entirely your decision to whom you base your loyalties, if indeed you have any loyalty at all. The free roaming scenarios are one of the appealing points of the game, but as there is still a storyline to stick to, they are fairly linear in nature.
 
Leader Map
 
Making your way around the African plains is made all the more easier by the use of a GPS-style map, which pinpoints your position and gives you directions to take to your primary and secondary missions. Fortunately for you, each vehicle is also fitted with a GPS mapping system, which bizarrely are never stolen from any of the vehicles despite the apparent poverty in the area!
 
Car GPS Boat GPS
 
Vehicles in the area, as described earlier, are discarded and have the keys left in the ignition, which is a bonus for you as the amount of traveling from one location to another can become a tad tiresome if done on foot once you have witnessed the glorious scenery. I did, however, like the way that there is no loading required when passing from one village to the next, and the only time you will witness any loading is if you take advantage of the 'public transport'. This bus service will transport you from one point on the map to another instantaneously without the need to drive, which is handy as while driving, you are never too far away from being recognised by the enemy and all too often you are drawn into a firefight with pursuing rebels. While enjoyable at first, again this can become tiresome after a while when you wish to concentrate on the mission at hand. The bus service eradicates the need for skirmishing.
 
MPG Breakdown
 
Weapons are realistic enough and sound very sharp. The dull thwack-click reload of a shotgun or the familiar ack-ack-ack of an AK-47 are represented by realistic sounds. The flamethrower is a particular favourite of mine, and is perhaps the most fun weapon of the game, if somewhat a little underpowered compared to some of the weapons you can purchase later in the game from the weapons store.  The weapons store is your one stop shop for all your weapons and upgrades, providing you have the required amount of diamonds of course.
 
Weapons Store Sniping
 
Targeting through the reticule is precise, and the edges of the screen blur to enhance the focal point of the target. Gun sway is realistic but, primarily at least, the guns are not very accurate. Even with your crosshair firmly fixed on the target, you might still miss. This however, can be eradicated by a weapon accuracy upgrade for that specific gun, again for a handful of diamonds.
 
 Now you see me.... Now you don't
 
The more diamonds you have, the better weapons you can purchase, and as the mission difficulty levels increase, weapon selection becomes critical, but the rewards are bountiful. Explosions, like the fire, are some of the best seen in an FPS to date, especially when you have a PhysX-capable setup. Sadly though, the carnage left after a massive explosion leaves a lot to be desired. For example, a corrugated iron shack that is fluttering in the wind is sometimes indestructible despite the massive explosion impacted on it. Sure, shrapnel flies in every direction, but the wooden/flimsy buildings are usually left unscathed by the damage. I would have preferred to have seen a totally destructive environment, which would enhance the realism of Far Cry 2, but until the inevitable patches are released, we are stuck with this scenario for the time being. Still, if you are a born arsonist there are plenty of other ways to get your kicks..
 
Firestarter! Blaze
 
Fields of Gold Dune buggy
 
Should you fall foul to a road side blockade or an ambush where you are outnumbered, outgunned and taking a good battering, one of your buddies may, if you have visited the safe house recently, come to your aid, fend off your attackers and give you time to remove that piece of shrapnel, administer self first aid, and get back into the fight immediately without having to re-load your last saved game point. This is a great feature of the game and while your Buddy appears impervious to enemy fire, it is a welcome addition, cutting down on the reload time should you die.
 
First aid is administered through the use of hypodermic needles that can be found in first aid kits scattered around the game world. However, before you administer the first aid you need to remove the lodged bullet or shard of metal causing the blood loss. While this is a little over the top, it is only done by cinematic sequences and doesn't go into too much detail.
 
Buddy Sharpnel removal
 
Shooting the moon
 
So while we are left shooting the moon as it were, let's head over to our testing phase where we put our top testing rig through its paces...


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Test Setup
 
To ensure we had a broad range of results at different resolutions and quality settings we ran the included Far Cry 2 Benchmark on a Ultra High end setup.
 
Processor: Intel Core2Quad Extreme QX9770
Motherboard: EVGA 790i Ultra
Memory: Patriot Viper DDR3 2000mhz 8-8-8-21
Graphics Card: XFX GTX280 XXX SLI
CPU Cooling: Custom watercooling
Power Supply: Silverstone Strider 1000w
Hard Disk: 2 x 150GB Raptor Raid 0 32kb stripe size
Display: Dell 3007 WFP-HC 30" LCD
BIOS: P07
Chipset Drivers: Forceware 15.23
Graphics Drivers: Geforce 180.43
Operating System: Windows Vista 64bit SP1
 
 
Benchmarking
 
For the following benchmarks we utilised the inbuilt Far Cry 2 benchmarking tool and used a variety of settings to put the Far Cry 2 engine to the test. Here are the settings we used:
 
Low
Low test
 
Med/High
Med/High
 
Ultra High
Ultra High
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Results Observations
 
Starting from the top graph, we see that a 1GHz increase in CPU speed, from the stock 3.2Ghz to 4.2Ghz, had little effect on the results. There was a slight increase to be had but nothing worth risking stability and heat for. Bigger gains were evident once the GPU had been overclocked from a stock 670/2500/1458 to 770/2650/1570, especially once the resolution and settings were increased.
 
The biggest differences though, were between DirectX9 and DirectX10. Applying DirectX10 almost halved the FPS which, unless you have a top-end setup, could be a problem if you like all the trimmings applied at high resolutions. DX10 visuals, while being noticeable, were not SO noticeable that I would take a 50% hit in FPS.
 
The final test was with SLI. I was shocked and impressed at the way a dual card setup scaled. Adding a second card doubled the FPS on the highest settings, transforming jerky unplayability to smooth game play. An amazing feat from Nvidia, which goes to prove SLI is far from dead. A continuation of results such as these will no doubt boost sales, as reports are that ATI are struggling with DX10. Even the mighty 4870x2, which normally beats the GTX280 hands down, cannot, for the time being at least, keep pace with Nvidia GTX280 in DX10.
 
Let's head over to the conclusion to summarise this review.


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Conclusion
 
 
When I first played Far Cry 2, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. I was a very big fan of the original and was expecting a direct sequel. Instead, I found there was very little in common between Far Cry and Far Cry 2 bar the name. The graphics, as you would expect after 4 years, have been radically updated, but rather than the lush green paradise of old, we are faced with dusty, derelict Savannah. The game effects, due in part to PhysX and DX10, are stunning and best of all, you don't need a triple GPU setup to obtain half decent FPS. While the DUNIA engine is not quite as complex as the Crysis engine, interaction with environment is still very good. There were a few anomalies, which will hopefully be rectified with future patches and driver fixes, but overall the visuals were only a very, very slight second to Crysis.
 
The story line and the way it is integrated into the game is totally different, with much more freedom of choice rather than the faux freedom of old. Missions are diverse enough to keep you wanting for more, and the added bonus of new and upgraded weapons ensures that your thirst for the game is never quite quenched. Longevity, it seems, is applied in bagfuls with Far Cry 2. Well, yes and no. The initial few hours of trying out different weapons and their effects on the environment, standing back in awe at the destruction you have let loose is very satisfying. The effects, however, can only last for so long. The constant traveling to and fro can become a little tiresome and the odd skirmish in between does little to relieve this frustration.
 
Far Cry 2 is in some respects a victim of its own prowess. You can't have action around every corner if you want realism. You can't have realism without having the odd dull moment. Ubisoft have tried to balance action with exploration, and for the most part they succeed, but there were occasions I found myself too far away from my mission and too far away from a bus station to 'insta-travel' and therefore amused myself with my flamethrower and some grassland full of Zebra before getting a little bored and wondering what news is being posted on the OC3D forums.
 
If you have the patience and are yearning for adventure with the full effects of a modern game engine, then Far Cry 2 will satisfy your needs. It is a masterpiece of gaming that is surely a big contender for game of the year. If, however, you were hoping for a Far Cry sequel with an updated GPU engine and fresh graphics, then you might, like me, be a tad disappointed.
 
 
 
     Graphics = 9
     Sound = 9
     Gameplay = 8
 
 
 
 
XFX are currently including a FREE copy of Far Cry 2 with select 9 and 200 series graphics cards.
Thanks to XFX for providing the GTX280's and a copy of Far Cry 2 for today's review. Discuss in our forums.